Daily Planet Staff
Berkeley police don’t stop drivers just because they’re black, the department concludes in a report on its six-month statistical study of traffic stops.
In the 17-page report released Wednesday, Berkeley Police Chief Dash Butler says that the statistics generated from 8,727 traffic stops indicate Berkeley’s police officers do not engage in racial profiling also known as “Driving While Black or Brown.”
African-American drivers comprised about 29 percent of all the department’s traffic stops in the time period from last August through January of this year, the report states.
Berkeley police initiated the study “because we decided it was the right thing to do,” said Capt. Bobby Miller.
Mike Van Winkle of the California Justice Department summarized recent action on legislative bills to document racial profiling, saying the governor reached a compromise with Sen. Kevin Murray, who proposed the legislation.
Murray – who said he has been stopped solely because of his race, something that Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson says also has happened to him – proposed that state law enforcement agencies report the ethnicity of motorists they stop.
In the compromise, the law enforcement agencies will not be required to record ethnicity, but officers will give business cards and motorists can follow up with a complaint.
Van Winkle said Gov. Gray Davis requires the California Highway Patrol to profile the ethnicity of motorists in its traffic stops.
In the Berkeley Police Department Vehicle Stop Demographics Study, department analyst Lt. Bud Stone used computerized data from 8,727 traffic stops. The report contains nine informative maps revealing high-density traffic patterns and frequent accident sites.
Almost half (49.1 percent) of the traffic stops were white motorists; 28.9 percent were African America; 6.7 percent were Hispanic; 8.7 percent were Asian; and others comprised 6.6 percent.
By age, 38.3 percent were drivers between the ages of 18 and 29, and close behind those drivers are the age group of people 40 years of age or older. People in the 30-to-39 age group were stopped 28.3 percent of the time.
About 75 percent of drivers stopped received citations from police officers, and about 25 percent received warnings.
The report describes how the data was compiled. When Berkeley police officers stop drivers they are required to notify the department’s Communication Center and give the location.
For each stop the center generates an event from Computer Aided Dispatch or CAD. The officer provides a disposition code for the event that identifies the race, sex and age of the driver, and the reasons for stopping the driver and the enforcement for violations.
The report cites demographic date from the 1990 census, listing about 64,400 Berkeley residents as white, 19,000 as black, 15,000 Asians and 8,600 Hispanics. That number may change with this year’s census figures.
However, the department points out that demographic data is “not necessarily a valid measure of racial equity of car stops.”
That’s because a high number of car stops are made of drivers who are not residents in the community where they were stopped, according to an Alameda County report.
According to the report the Berkeley Police Department analyzed moving citations written in Alameda County in 1999. In more than 74,000 citations only 42,561 or 43 percent of them were written to individuals who live in Alameda County.
Of that random sample of Alameda County tickets, Berkeley officers wrote 5,966 of them. Of that number of tickets 3,394 or 57 percent were not Berkeley residents, according to the report.
Bay Area traffic dynamics involves massive movement of vehicles each day from in and out of counties and cities, the report emphasized.
The department used its Geographic Information System that ordinarily plots crime activity for the traffic profiling analysis.
Of the 8,727 traffic stops in all, 2,525 of them were of black drivers and 1,879 of those stops were plotted on one of the report’s nine maps.
Those corridors with the most frequent stops of blacks mainly were south of University Avenue and heavy concentrations were noted there, on Shattuck/Adeline, on Sacramento Street, Ashby Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Way.
In the map that illustrates stops of all motorists, the corridors with the most traffic stops were quite similar to the one for police stops of black drivers.
Again the area north of University Avenue contains fewer black dots reflecting traffic stops than the area south of University Avenue.
In plotting traffic stops of white drivers, the report’s authors used 3,516 of a total of 4,281 stops. Again they reflected the well-traveled corridors, possibly with more stops north of University Avenue.
Police respond to high-frequency traffic locations and to community complaints about traffic violation locations. All officers are expected to write tickets in their 18 beats.
The report explains the higher number of traffic stops for African Americans in South and West Berkeley because of increased concentration of police in that area.
Two Drug Task Force teams regularly patrol South and West Berkeley in addition to one regular beat officer in each beat in those areas, the report states.
The San Jose Police Department also did a racial profiling study that spanned two time periods, from July 1 to Sept. 30 and from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
Capt. Rob Davis said “if you look at overall numbers the minority group over represented in the traffic stops is Hispanic.” Blacks comprise 4.5 percent of the San Jose population, Hispanics, 31 percent.
He analyzed the findings of the San Jose report similar to the way Berkeley analyzed its report.
Davis said there may be higher concentrations of stops in areas where minorities live, because more officers are patrolling there, due to the higher numbers of 911 calls from residents who live in those areas.